Adapting to a New Culture

While traveling to new place is exciting it can also take time to adapt to the culture you find there.

Some aspects you may love right away. You may also find that other parts of the culture you learn to love or simply learn to accept. That is normal.

Keep an Open Mind

The single most important aspect to adapting to a new culture is keeping an open mind.You will find differences between your home and host culture but resist the temptation to label one way of doing things better or worse than another. If you stop to think about what you are seeing and ask questions from the people you meet there you will start to see how things make sense in your study abroad destination.

Think Twice About Your Challenges

When you struggle with a certain aspect of a culture we encourage you to consider why you are feeling that way. What is it about the situation that is frustrating or challenging? What are you expecting to happen but isn’t? Why are things different? Why do you think the locals do the things the way that they do there? What are the advantages in this country for doing things their way? You can learn a lot about where you are and where you are from during these kinds of moments of frustration.

Living with a Host Family

Many students say living with a host family is intially a huge culture shock, but in time, they prove to be a valuable resource in contextualizing your new environment and they can grow to be the best part of the experience.

Dealing with Stress

If you start to feel stressed out or overwhelmed by being abroad give yourself a minute to calm down and remember that most of us don’t act our best when we are stressed. Many of us will experience this kind of “culture shock” when we travel abroad. It can be really helpful to talk with others on your program or your program director to help you work through the challenges of living abroad. Be patient with yourself. Remember those that you meet abroad have spent a lifetime learning their culture and you just arrived!

Don't forget about your initial feelings of excitement!

When you feel frustrated, confused or stressed also remember all of the excitement that you felt as you selected your program and purchased your plane ticket. Feel that excitement again and go out and experience your host country. There are amazing lessons waiting for you on an unimaginable number of topics. It can be a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you figure out how to navigate and succeed in your new environment!

For more on this topic and other important travel information, please review the Pre-Departure Handbook.